Monday, February 21, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Passion"

“Passion”, written by Ty King, really shifts the big bad second season arc into gear. Angel continues to put his plan to psychologically torture Buffy and to kill her friends into action but moves it to a new and more intense level in this episode.

The title of the episode “Passion” has a wide-ranging meaning within the episode itself. It refers to Buffy’s continuing passion, continuing love, for Angel, an Angel that seems to have disappeared by the end of this episode. It refers to the passion Angel has for brutal psychological torture of women like Buffy and Dru. It refers to the love, the twisted love, Angel continues to have for Buffy. As Willow tells Buffy at one point in the episode she, Buffy, is still all that Angel, even now that he has “turned”, can think about (passion “consumes” says Angel in his voice over narration). Angel’s passion for Buffy is no longer the passion of romantic love. It is now the passion to wipe that love, that memory of being human, from his consciousness, something Angelus is having a hard time doing (“…so it”, passion, “must die” says Angel in his voice over narration).

“Passion” has a lot of the noir in it. The episode takes place for the most part during the night and is darkly lit. Then there is the dark aspects of the episode. There's Angel’s beautiful but perverse etchings of Buffy which he drew while she was asleep in the presumed safety of her bedroom, the place where Buffy and Angel first kissed and expressed their love for each other on several occasions afterward. There's Angel’s beautiful but as we know perverse etching of a Jenny he has just killed and left, along with Puccini blaring on the stereo and rose petals on the stairs, for Giles to discover in his flat. There's Angel’s brutal murder of Jenny Calendar toward the end of “Passion”. There's the noir like voice over narration by the now evil villain of the piece, Angel, a narration that appears throughout the course of the episode. There's the voice over narration of Buffy at the end of the episode, a voice over narration in which Buffy recognises that the Angel she fell in love with is gone forever. Noir tragedy.

“Passion” also has a lot of the Jane Austen and Anthony Mann in it. Angel is a damaged man like many of the males in Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice (D’Arcy) and Mann’s films (Winchester 73, The Man from Laramie, Bend of the River, Naked Spur). It also has a bit of the Hitchcock in it. Angel is a voyeur right out of Hitchcock’s Rear Window. He is, however, a far more perverse voyeur than Jimmy Stewart in that brilliant film. Angel creepily comes into Buffy’s bedroom and leaves her an etching he has sketched of her while she was asleep. Angel perversely enters Willow’s bedroom, kills her fish, and leaves them in an envelope for Will. Angel creepily leaves Buffy an etching of Joyce at Willow’s. Angel perversely confronts Joyce as she returns from the grocery store telling her that he and Buffy made love. Angel perversely makes Giles think that Jenny has prepared the champagne, roses, rose petals, candles, and Puccini for him as preparation for a rekindling their romance and that she is waiting upstairs in his bedroom for him. Jenny, of course, lies dead in Giles’s bed. Angel perversely enjoys watching Buffy collapse in numbness and Willow collapse into painful tears after Giles informs them both by phone that Angelus has brutally and insultingly (Whedon’s description of his act in his interview on “Passion” on the second season Buffy DVD’s) killed Jenny by breaking her neck. The camera, which has peered through the window of Buffy’s house from Angel’s voyeuristic point of view gaze, switches to a shot of Angel and we viewer voyeurs see his perversely smiling face as he ecstatically responds to how Buffy and Will react to the news that Jenny is dead. If we, the viewers, didn’t realise that this Angel is evil and dangerous we do now.

And finally “Passion” has a lot of tragedy in it. There's the tragedy associated with Jenny’s betrayal of the Scoobies. There is a tragic dimension to Jenny's continued love for Giles after the betrayal and Giles's continual loyalty to Buffy despite his love for Jenny. There's the tragedy of Jenny’s reconstruction of the Gypsy “Ritual of Restoration” and Angel’s destruction of the computer that houses the ritual and the printout of the ritual that will save his "soul". There's the tragedy of Jenny’s death at the hands of Angel just as she and Giles are about to reconcile. There's a tragic dimension associated with Willow’s knocking off of the computer disc on which Jenny has saved the “ritual of restoration” onto the floor between two desks in Jenny’s classroom just after Will takes over Jenny’s teaching duties.

The Chorus: “Passion” is yet another one of my favourite episodes of Buffy. “Passion” packs an intense emotional wallop in Jenny's death, a character many viewers of Buffy had become attached. Whedon (the interview on “Passion” in the Buffy second season DVD set) has said that he wanted viewers to know that Angel was truly evil which is why he had Angelus brutally kill Jenny by breaking her neck with his hands all without any sign of remorse.

There are several incredible scenes in “Passion”, scenes that rival anything in Bergman or any other great art filmmakers of the past or present. There is the incredible scene where Buffy doesn’t forgive Jenny for what she has done but tells Jenny that she doesn’t want Giles, who she says misses Jenny, or Jenny to be lonely. The loneliness of the lives of the Scoobies and the attempt to counteract that loneliness through friendship and love is, of course, a major theme in Buffy. There is the incredible scene where Angel tells Joyce that he and Buffy have had sex. Scary. Tense. There is the incredible scene where Joyce has “the talk” with Buffy after she learns that Buffy has had sex with an older Angel who she hasn’t even told Joyce she is dating and where Joyce tells Buffy that regardless of what she does she will always care for her. Joyce is a great mum. There is the incredible scene where Angel kills Jenny. There is the incredible scene in which Angel has prepared a “gift” for Giles, the dead Jenny Calendar. Perverse. Creepy. There is the incredible scene where Buffy and Willow learn that Angelus has brutally killed Jenny Calendar. There is the incredible scene where Giles goes to the Factory to kill Angel, where Buffy fights with Angel pummeling him, where Buffy rescues Giles, and where Buffy tells Giles that she can’t loose him because she can’t “do this (Slayer thing) alone”. “Passion” is incredibly powerful and disturbing filmmaking of the highest order. I was deeply distressed and pained when I first saw it many moons ago. It still packs an incredible emotional punch even after one has seen it eight or nine time as I have.

Vampire Lore: Jenny discovers a way to disinvite vampires into ones house and car. Buffy has garlic on her bed board to protect her and Will from Angel.

Perversely Creepy: Angel’s laugh. Angel killing Jenny by breaking her neck all in vamp face (Whedon said in the interview on “Passion” in the second season Buffy DVD set that they debated whether Angel should kill Jenny in human or vamp face and decided on the latter since they thought the latter would be too troublesome for many). Angel’s ecstasy (an aspect of passion as he says in his narration) over his killing of Jenny and how it has impacted Buffy and Will.

Laugh Out Loud: Xander wondering what Jonathan and another student are doing walking into the library without knocking. This is a wonderful comment on the fact that basically no one except our Scoobies are ever in the Sunnydale High School Library. A wry comment on student reading habits or the lack thereof?

Awesome: Xander’s (with attitude) “I'm sorry. But let's not forget that I hated Angel long before all of you guys jumped on the bandwagon. So, I think I deserve something for not saying "I told you so" long before now. And, if Giles wants to go after the… fiend who murdered his girlfriend, I say ‘Faster, Pussycat. Kill. Kill'". Xander is, of course, referencing a film directed by the king of softcore sexploitation Russ Meyer here.

Previously on Buffy: Willow has the word “sheep” on a tack board in her bedroom. Cordy had called the Cordettes sheep in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”. The scene with Giles and Buffy at Jenny’s grave recalls Buffy’s dream about Jenny the betrayer in “Surprise/Innocence”.

Foreshadowings: We get to see Willow the teacher. She will reappear throughout the course of the series.

Goodbye and All That: Giles burns the Factory down. We won’t see the Factory again until season three’s “Lovers Walk”.

Questions: Will anyone find the “Ritual of Restoration” spell Jenny has reconstructed and which Willow has knocked on the floor between two discs and restore Angel’s soul?

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